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Angie Tribeca, TBS’s new cop spoof, proves that not every show should be binge-watched

Jay Geils and Angie Tribeca, on the case and always dubious.
Jay Geils and Angie Tribeca, on the case and always dubious.
TBS

With Angie Tribeca, TBS is betting big on the combined star power of Rashida Jones and co-creators Steve Carell and Nancy Walls, as well as nostalgia for the broader, slapstick-ier comedies of yore. The cop show spoof, which has already been renewed for a second season, premiered at 9 pm on January 17; all 10 episodes of the first season will then air repeatedly to create a full 24-hour marathon.

The thinking here is likely twofold. Each episode of Angie Tribeca is a standalone, so there's no chance that a viewer could get confused if she checks in halfway through the season while flipping channels. Meanwhile, binge-watching has become so ingrained in the way people consume television now that they might as well lean in and drop the whole season.

In reality, all TBS unwittingly proved is exactly why not every show should be watched all at once. Angie Tribeca's got jokes, gags, and charismatic actors tumbling out of every possible corner. But marathoning 10 episodes of the show just highlights its flaws.

Angie Tribeca is a spoof that never stops reminding you it's a spoof

The premise of Angie Tribeca is a familiar one.

  • Angie Tribeca (Jones) is an uptight cop who's fallen in love with every partner she's ever had — and her new partner Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur) looks to be no exception.
  • Angie Tribeca butts head with the chief (Jere Burns) and rolls her eyes at her co-worker, DJ Tanner (Blackish's jolt of weirdness Deon Cole, perfectly cast here). She trades no-nonsense banter with the forensic experts (Andree Vermuelen and — this is true — Alfred Molina).
  • Angie Tribeca goes undercover, defies the odds, takes no shit. Et cetera and so on.

Angie Tribeca is also a spoof on all these tropes, and aggressively so, in the over-the-top, on-the-nose style of Police Squad! and Get Smart.

If there is an opportunity for a pun or dramatic pratfall, Angie Tribeca is going to take it, with less of a wink than an elbow in the stomach that knocks you backward over a desk. If someone says he's got a bombshell for the detectives, you better believe it's a literal bombshell. If someone says, "Let's bounce," you know she's about to spring offscreen on a pogo stick.

The first few episodes lean on taking everything literally so much that there are rarely jokes you don't see coming from a mile away. The pilot, written by Carell and Walls, hammers home its punchlines so vigorously that it becomes manic, almost frantic, in its pursuit of laughs.

Another problem Angie Tribeca has, especially in the front half of the season, is that it stands in the shadow of all the television shows and movies alike that have spoofed cop shows. Its closest predecessor is Police Squad!, but that parodied the specific style of '70s and early '80s shows while Angie Tribeca just kind of spoofs ... well, everything. The comedic target is even broader than the humor, and the lack of focus makes the show feel hopelessly scattered.

What saves it in the first rocky episodes is how completely dedicated the actors are to playing everything completely straight, whether it's Jones, MacArthur, or guest stars like Lisa Kudrow, Bill Murray, and the ubiquitous James Franco.

Angie Tribeca makes a noticeable shift toward becoming a more streamlined show by the sixth episode. Every mystery of the week preceding "Ferret Royal" is bizarre, but Tribeca and Geils busting Keegan-Michael Key's illegal ferret-smuggling ring during a high-stakes poker match lets everyone do their best work. It especially helps that Tribeca's Fish and Game nemesis in "Ferret Royal" is Kerri Kenney, a Reno 911 alum who knows how to mock police conventions in her sleep.

So, yes, Angie Tribeca knows how to have fun. It's just a shame that TBS insists on shoving the first season at us all at once, like a pie to the face.

Just because you can marathon a show doesn't mean you should

I tried to marathon Angie Tribeca.

I failed.

When you watch Angie Tribeca episodes back to back, you become all too aware of how hard the show hits the same kinds of beats, jokes, and rhythms over and over again. If you're into what Angie is selling — namely, making every other sentence into a super-literal joke — this won't be a problem. But if you need some convincing, watching the episodes one after the other reduces the gags to a relentless parade of wacky tricks that tumbled straight out of a clown car.

In short: Marathoning Angie Tribeca is exhausting.

Not every show is built for a marathon — nor should it be. The problem with Angie Tribeca is that TBS so aggressively publicized it as a show that could, and should, be watched all at once, seemingly for no reason other than because the network assumes people might do it, anyway. A 25-hour, commercial-free rollout is one way to draw attention to the show, but it doesn't do the actual series any favors.

Angie Tribeca is best in short spurts of demented energy. Dipping into Tribeca's Technicolor world of slapstick for a quick shot of absurdism can be a whole lot of fun, but being enveloped by it just feels like you're drowning in a comedian's wacky fever dream.